A chance to uncover an important past at Iceberg Point | Guest Column

Editor’s note: The proposed dig has been postponed as the Bureau of Land Management officials extend their environmental review.

By Liz Scranton

I was disappointed to read about the controversy surrounding the archaeological survey to be conducted at Iceberg Point. The native tribes went through many hoops to obtain permits to conduct a historic archeological survey and worked with the Bureau of Land Management to define the parameters of this project that require work to be conducted by strict protocols that were put in place to protect special environments.

Whatever your impression of our nation’s federal BLM, it is not applicable to our local Lopez BLM office, which like so many of our community organizations is totally unique. We have been blessed for over 15 years with staff member Nick Teague, who has worked tirelessly to protect our special BLM lands. Nick has led crews of volunteers to improve the trails that we all value and has worked to fund improvements to the land that benefit us all. When the Federal Government designated National Monument status for the San Juan Islands, at island residents requests, Lopez Island gained a friend and advocate by the name of Marcia deChadenedes. Marcia has worked as a compassionate and level-headed voice to manage and guide the Lopez BLM.

Our Lopez BLM staff are dedicated to ensuring that the archeological survey is carried out in a careful manner according to prescribed protocols. Nick and Marcia have an investment in the project just as we all do; Lopez Island is their home. They are not outsiders who have come to push an agenda. They care deeply about the environment in the San Juan Islands.

I feel that by attacking the Lopez BLM staff, we are not honoring the integrity of these individuals and that saddens me immensely. It also upsets me that we do not have any trust in our native brothers and sisters. These are the same individuals who we greet with open arms at Odlin Park when their canoes come to our shores. They are the same folks who many islanders stood with at Standing Rock. Yet when the native elders decide that it is of cultural importance to conduct an archeological survey on land that had been theirs for thousands of years, we attack them.

Where is our humanity? Wouldn’t it have been better to ask for a meeting with the elders and express our concerns and fears and ask how we can work together to make the survey a success for all who hold the land special? Our knee-jerk reaction to bar the native folks from Iceberg point, what had for thousands of years been their land, speaks to me of racism.

I would like to see an effort by those of us who are white and privileged to let go of our righteous indignation and reach out and trust our native brothers and sisters. Let’s support them in this significant work to recover their historical evidence and cultural past so that future generations may benefit from their efforts.

Scranton is a resident of Lopez Island.